China Itineraries (1,2,3 & 4 Weeks)

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(Recommendations to help you plan your perfect vacation)

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China

Primary Method of Travel: Trains are a great way to get around China. Travel China Guide is a great resource to find and book trains. Go for the “D Train” or “G Train” if you can … they’re faster and way more comfortable.
Local Currency: Yuan or RMB (Renminbi – The People’s Money) – Sometimes called “Kuai” [pronounced: kwhy]
Rough Conversion Rate:  6 RMB = $1 USD

China is a massive country and has tons of history, scenery and tourist attractions for any traveler. Many people though, will enter China on a 30 Day Tourist Visa and may find themselves wondering where to even start.

After living in China for 2 years I was lucky enough to see most of the cities I mention below. A couple quick disclaimers though: I never made it to Yunnan Province, Chengdu or Tibet – all of which are popular tourist destinations and I’ve added to the itineraries.

So, without too much rambling, here are my recommendations on how to make the most out of your next trip to China:

1 Week

China, travel, itinerary, 1 week
China, travel, itinerary, 1 week

China is a tough country to tackle on 1 week and I would highly recommend spending AT LEAST 2 weeks to see China. However, if 1 week is all you have, here are a couple “speedy” options:
*Due to Xi’an being so far out of the way and only having a week to see China, I recommend, “Option A.”

A: The Big 3*
IMG_2373Hong Kong – Hong Kong is an amazing city to ease you into China. It opens up Macau for you, flights are common to Hong Kong & you can cram a ton into 2 days.
Shanghai – Shanghai is the biggest city in the world and has an incredible skyline that will not fail to impress.
Beijing – A MUST SEE if you’re going to China. Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are all doable in 2 fast-paced days.

B: The Northern Route
IMG_3380Beijing – A MUST SEE if you’re going to China. Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are all doable in 2 fast-paced days.
Xi’an – Home of the Terra-cotta Warriors and un-missable in the eyes of some. Other than the warriors, Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot to see that will take you more than 2 days total.
Shanghai
 – Shanghai is the biggest city in the world and has an incredible skyline that will not fail to impress.

2 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 2 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 2 weeks

2 Weeks is starting to become a little more manageable. You will have more time to see beyond the basic tourist sites and you will also have a chance to see some of the cities outside the big cities.
*I recommend “Option A” again. I love Hong Kong, but if you really want to see the real China, Luoyang has too much to pass up.

A: The Cultural North*
IMG_1760Shanghai – Shanghai will serve as easy access into China. There’s tons of flights, transportation is great and buying train tickets will be easy from the biggest city in the world!
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing – And back to Beijing to finish your 2 weeks! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should still have time to pick a couple other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Lllama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: A Taste of the South

Sunset SmallerHong Kong
 – If you have to see Hong Kong I can’t blame you. It’s an awesome city and its the easiest city in China to get around in for foreigners. It would be a great way to start your 2 weeks, but you will have to cut out some other cities. 
Shanghai
  – Getting from Hong Kong to Shanghai is easy by train and you will ease yourself into China by starting with 2 major cities (big cities are easier to get around and more accustomed to tourists).
Hangzhou – Because this is my favorite city in China, I am recommending it instead of Luoyang (it will be hard to see both in just 2 weeks and I think you may have to pick between Luoyang and Hangzhou). In Hangzhou, You will get to see tea fields, beautiful scenery and the impressive “West Lake!” Don’t forget your camera!
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing – And back to Beijing to finish your 2 weeks! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should still have time to pick a couple other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Lllama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

3 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks

3 Weeks is starting to become way more comfortable. You will have more time to absorb Chinese culture without feeling like you are running to the next place all the time. Below, Itineraries A, B, and C become consecutively busier. I added Guangzhou to all the 3 week itineraries and added Nanjing, and Chengdu as potential add-on cities, depending on how fast you like to travel.
* I recommend “Option A” for the 3 week option. Nanjing (Meaning “South Capital” in Mandarin) and Chengdu (where you can see Pandas) are great add-on cities, but “Option A” gives you more time to relax and enjoy the cities you are in. Ultimately, it will be up to you!

A: Nice ‘n Easy Overview*
IMG_4641Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but if you only do one thing, make sure you do a river-boat tour!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing -Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: Panda Express (add Chengdu)

IMG_4724
Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu (I’ve never been there so I borrowed Amy’s advice) – Chengdu is home to the Pandas and from what I’ve been told, it’s actually an awesome city for backpackers and tourists. It’s a long ways out there though, so you might want to consider flying to Beijing for the next leg.
Beijing – Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

C: The Enthusiastic Traveler (add Chengdu & Nanjing)

2014-01-16 13.07.21Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Nanjing (“South Capital”) – It’s only a quick hop by train from Hangzhou and gives some insight into some of China’s more recent history (WW2 era). Home to Sun Yat Sen’s memorial and the Nanjing Massacre Museum there are plenty of things to see and do.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu (I’ve never been there so I borrowed Amy’s advice) – Chengdu is home of the Pandas and from what I’ve been told, is actually an awesome city for backpackers and tourists. It’s a long ways out there though, so you might want to consider flying to Beijing for the next leg.
Beijing – Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

4 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 4 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 4 weeks

Most people traveling to China will get a 30 Day Single Entry Tourist Visa! This is a great way to tackle China and if you are planning on spending the entire 4 weeks there, these itineraries might help you with planning. You should ultimately create your own adventure in China based on what you want to see and do … but these itineraries can serve as a starting point!

Keep in mind, if you are visiting Hong Kong on a single entry visa go there 1st or last! If you go to mainland China first and then enter Hong Kong, you won’t be able to return to mainland China a 2nd time. By going to Hong Kong 1st or last, you won’t use any of your “30 days” (allowed visa days) while you’re there.

* I recommend “Option B” (Only if you decide to see pandas in Chengdu).
** My personal recommendation though, is “Option A” (Skip Chengdu & give yourself more time to see other things. For extra ideas check out “4 Weeks+” below).

A: The Grand Tour**
Hong Kong2014-01-19 13.42.13 – A great place to start your China journey and absolutely unavoidable if you have 4 weeks.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Kunming – I’ve heard good things about Kunming and it will get you within reach of the famous southern mountains of China. (I haven’t been there personally so I have linked to Trip Advisor’s “Things to do in Kunming”).
Lijiang (Linked to “The Travel World” because I haven’t been there) – If you want to see those tall, beautifully, green mountains that southern China is famous for then plan a trip to Lijiang. While you’re there you can check out Tiger Leaping Gorge – Lonely Planet describes it as “The unmissable trek of southwest China.”
Shanghai – There’s no excuse to miss Shanghai with 4 weeks.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Nanjing – Nanjing is a city built around an elaborate canal system. It’s a pretty cool walled city, is one of China’s ancient capitals and home to the Nanjing Massacre Museum.
Luoyang – While you’re there, Check out these 3 things: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu – It’s suppose to be cool (I haven’t seen it) and it’s where everyone seems to go to see and hold Pandas. It’s a long way out of the way though, and holding pandas can get expensive. If you do decide to go, plan on flying from Chengdu to Beijing. It will be much quicker and probably similar in price to taking the train.
Beijing – And back to Beijing! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you will definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: A Bit of Everything*

Hong KongIMG_1562 -A great place to start your China journey and absolutely unavoidable if you have 4 weeks.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Kunming – I’ve heard good things about Kunming and it will get you within reach of the famous southern mountains of China. (I haven’t been there personally so I have linked to Trip Advisor’s “Things to do in Kunming”).
Lijiang (Linked to “The Travel World” because I haven’t been there) – If you want to see those tall, beautifully, green mountains that southern China is famous for then plan a trip to Lijiang. While you’re there you can check out Tiger Leaping Gorge – Lonely Planet describes it as “The unmissable trek of southwest China.”
Chengdu – If you’re going to see the Pandas and Chengdu then definitely swing up from Lijiang for this itinerary. It’s much closer and you can work your way back to Shanghai and up to Beijing more fluidly.
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Luoyang – While you’re there, Check out these 3 things: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Nanjing – Nanjing is a city built around an elaborate canal system. It’s a pretty cool walled city, is one of China’s ancient capitals and home to the Nanjing Massacre Museum.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Shanghai – There’s no excuse to miss Shanghai with 4 weeks.
Beijing -And back to Beijing! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you will definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

4 Weeks +
If you managed to line up more than 4 weeks in china OR you just want to mix and match with the itineraries above, here are a few popular destinations to check out while you’re in China:

Bungee, Jumping, highest, tallest, Macau, Tower, world, scary

Highest Bungee in the World

If you’re an adrenaline junky check out Macau while you’re around Hong Kong! Amongst the gambling and sights you can jump off the Macau Tower, the world’s highest bungee jump.

(Click the link read more)

Harbin, ice, festival, worlds, largest, freezing, cold

Harbin Ice Festival

The Harbin Ice Festival is the biggest ice festival in the world. It is way, way, way out of the way and SUPER COLD! But … it is pretty awesome to see. Check it out around Christmas time thru February-ish.

(Click the link read more)

2014-04-19 13.49.43

Luoyang Peony Festival

If you love Peonies then you will love this Peony Festival! It’s sometime in April depending on the year, but make sure you get there during the right week; otherwise it’s a little under-whelming.

(Click the link read more)

tallest, statue, world, spring temple, buddha, China

Spring Temple Buddha

The Spring Temple Buddha is the tallest statue in the world, but it is shockingly out in the middle of nowhere. If you want to check out this huge statue, you’re closest major city will be Luoyang. 

(For detailed instructions on getting to the statue click the link above)

Zhujiajiao, Water City, Sunset

Zhujiajiao – Water Town

This is an incredible little town that lives on the water! It is a perfect day trip from Shanghai and a perfect place to try food, get cool souvenirs and work on your bartering skills. Head out with enough time to get a table and eat along the waterfront … if your lucky you will catch one of their awesome sunsets.

(Click the link read more)

Tibet, map

Lhasa,
Tibet

If your dream is to see Tibet then I would recommend going during your China trip. You will need a Chinese visa in a addition to some other paperwork to get in. Tour groups may be your best bet.

(Link goes to chinahighlights.com)

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